Setting Boundaries & Rules with Neighbors

I used to have an older neighbor who was charming and friendly at first, but became very needy and intrusive later. Because at first I saw his frequent visits as friendly behavior, I never set boundaries for what is acceptable. I paid the price later and he got into a routine of invading my privacy in every way possible. Everyone has a different definition of privacy and appropriate neighbor relations.

I learned my lesson with my unfortunate neighbor experience. My mother and I could later laugh about the situation but I decided to put together a list of rules to have a successful relationship with neighbors. As with any relationship, it is important to set the rules and boundaries from the beginning. Be clear about what you expect.

  • Borrowing Policy: Discuss if you will or will not borrow items from each other such as an occasional egg to the electric drill. If you decide you want to borrow personal items from each other, set the terms and conditions. For example, will you bring the object back in its original condition? Will you borrow the item for one week or do you return the item after a month?
  • Accepting Packages/Mail: Mail can be very personal and some people may prefer that no one handles their mail. Establish if it is acceptable to accept each other's mail or packages when necessary. What may seem like common sense to one person, may be unacceptable in someone else's mind.
  • Parties: Your lifestyle may or may not agree with your neighbor's lifestyle. If your neighbor loves to entertain every weekend and you are studying for finals, try to respect each other's needs without sacrificing too much.
  • Loud Noises: Loud noises include more than just music; it also includes singing, playing musical instruments, construction, pets, and I am sure you can name a few more. Last weekend I was highly entertained listening to a neighbor sing opera while the other neighbor screamed out her window telling the opera singer to go to a studio. This went on for 10 minutes. Eventually someone gives in, but does anyone really win in a standoff? As with the parties issue, there may be a way to come to an agreement so everyone wins.
  • Privacy: Some of us are more private than others. My current neighbor questions some of my guests she hasn't met before. In theory it is good to have a neighbor who keeps an eye out for suspicious activity; however, you want your guests to feel welcome and not have to go through the interrogation every time they come to visit.
  • Friends/Not Friends: Just because you are neighbors, don't assume that your neighbor will become your best friend. Some people prefer to keep to themselves and maintain their own set of friends. If your neighbor simply wants to be your neighbor and not a friend, it is usually not personal.

What are your tips to maintaining a healthy relationship with your neighbors?

Image: Flickr Member Mills Baker via Creative Commons

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Marcia is an interior, portrait, and travel photographer and has photographed over 50 homes of creatives. Her photographic style is capturing her subject in the most natural state and creating an emotional response.